Tag Archives: Environment

About Susan Aprill



Jones River, no date
Jones River, no date

Some time ago, an unknown photographer captured this moment of tranquility on the river.  The Old Colony Railroad bridge can be seen in the distance at left, along with at least one of the boathouses that stand between Landing Road and the riverbank. The stone wall at right is the end of the seawall (or river-wall) that runs from the Great Bridge along the property that was once Alexander Holmes’ Jones River Farm.

“I care not a whit for the laugh or the sneer…”

April is National Poetry Month, so here is a poem by Kingston’s own romantic versifier, Benjamin “Cousin Benja” Mitchell.  Born in 1828, Benja lived with his parents and sister in picturesque Thatchwood Cottage on what is now Brookdale Street near the Duxbury line.  He spent much of his life roaming the woods and fields, communing with Nature and God, then returning home to inscribe his bursting spirit on the page. He wrote poems, short essays and obituaries in verse,  many of which were published in literary journals.

After suffering from consumption for several years, Cousin Benja died on April 23, 1865.  His beloved sister Julia gathered his papers and had his works published in 1866.

Verily your friend, Benja R. Mitchell, Kingston, 1864
"Verily your friend, Benja R. Mitchell, Kingston, 1864"

Natural and Happy

I am Nature’s own child — I am wild and romantic,
I love the green fields and the shady old wood ;
And the songs of the streamlets — oh, they drive me most frantic,
As they dance o’er the pebbles in frolicsome mood !

There’s the old rustic bridge that was built by our fathers,
And the wall by the cow-path, so mossy and old,
Is more dear to my heart than a bag full of dollars ;
Than the rustling of silks, or the shining of gold ;

And oft when my hopes in the future do falter,
And visions of darkness have shrouded the mind ;
With a mossy old stump in the woods for an altar,
Have I prayed that my heart be kept gentle and kind.

Let those who delight heaps of gold to be piling,
Pile on, if they choose, till it reaches the blue ;
But be sure that when death sends his arrows a flying,
That a balance of credit has been given to you !

I know it is thought when the beard has grown stronger,
And a row of dark whiskers has mantled the face,
That we should be childlike and gentle no longer,
And to “become like a child” is almost a disgrace !

Just let a man live in accordance with Nature,
Appear as God made him, and use common sense,
He would soon take a trip out to Taunton or Worcester,
Where his board would be paid as a public expense !

I know that my friends are oft shocked at my capers,
And wish I would learn to behave like a man ;
Wear fashionable airs in preference to Nature’s —
And I’d like much to please them, but ’tis more than I can.

They may laugh at my notions, and say that I’m odd,
But I care not a whit for the laugh or the sneer ;
If I’m true to my nature, and true to my God,
‘Twill be well with me always, with nothing to fear.

Lives Alone – The Story of Kingston’s Famous Hermit

Thinking of those who are under-represented in archival collections, of the undocumented figures of history,  hermits have to be in the top ten, right?  That just doesn’t seem right, so…

Hermit Dan Fuller in front of his home

here’s the story of Kingston’s famous hermit, drawn from a cabinet card, a few entries in town records, a newspaper article, a hand-written rebuttal and an anonymous letter.

Vital records provide the bare bones of biography: Daniel Weston Fuller was born to Consider and Hannah (Eaton) Fuller on January 5, 1812 and died of pneumonia on June 7, 1894, the year after his story was published in the Boston Journal.

In 1893, a reporter* traveled south to investigate “the trapper of Smelt Pond.” The story that followed – published on March 17, 1893 then reprinted in the Kingston News a few weeks later – romanticized the recluse with quaint, yet peculiar anecdotes.  He slept in a molasses barrel, renounced society over an unrequited love, and shot game with a muzzle-loader that had belonged to Daniel Webster, a friend of Dan’s brother Samuel.  Dan “educated” an owl for a pet and shot his own dog when “ ‘he got so dainty he wouldn’t eat raw potato skins.  Didn’t have any use for a dog such as that’.”

After moving out of the hogshead, Dan lived in a 12’ x 6’ hut, a former shoe-shop on Wapping Road later moved deep into the woods between Elm Street and Ring Road. He kept count of snowstorms with tick marks on one “greasy black” wall, and the number of mice caught on another. He festooned his small room with garlands of duck egg shells. What money he earned came from bounties on crows and woodchucks, once netting $17 for 34 heads, or from ducks brought to town, “really very nice if disassociated from the grimy hands that brought them.” His sustenance came from the forest, though in his later years, he did accept food, wood and tobacco from friends. The reporter noted that the hermit’s “piercing black eyes” turned sociable when presented with a gift box of fruit and bread.

The next piece of evidence appeared in response to the article: an unknown friend of Dan’s wrote to the editor that “there was no unrequited love in his case. He was a born son of the forest to begin with,” sleeping on a bed of leaves at 5 years old.  His family was “old fashioned even for them days 1820.”  Consider Fuller allowed his children to roam the woods, counting them every Sunday and “if they was all there or was not missing two Sunday mornings in succession, he was satisfied.”  Daniel’s defender noted that he made his living from the wilderness, selling furs and skins, wild honey and feathers for pillows, and stated that “Daniel cannot care for tomorrow.”

The last document is a semi-anonymous letter dated February 6, 1935, from Katie in Canton to her Aunt Addie recounting Roger’s memories of Dan the Hermit, including the well-told tale that he never washed.  There is not much more detail, but the letter does show that the hermit’s story was still in living memory more that 30 years after his death.  As late as 2003, the foundation on which Dan’s “rude hut” sat could still be seen, deep in the woods of Kingston.  Those stones, along with a yellowed clipping, a two page recollection and a single letter are all that remain to tell the tale.


*Emily Fuller Drew, who transcribed the article in 1938, believed it was written by Elroy Sherman Thompson, newsman, editor and publisher of the Kingston News.


Sources: Vertical File: Dan Fuller; Town Clerk’s Reports; Vital Records of Kingston to 1850.


Town of Kingston Plan of Clam Grants, 1909
Town of Kingston Plan of Clam Grants, 1909

Throughout the 1800s, Kingston, along with Plymouth and Duxbury, provided clams to cod fisheries all along the Massachusetts coast. Clams were sold fresh for bait in the winter months, or steamed, salted and barreled for summer use. The region produced as much as 100,000 bushels a year. Around 1875, the shellfish – steamed and fried – became a sought-after delicacy, not only for New England clam bakes and shore dinners, but also in fancy restaurants in Boston, New York and Chicago for restaurants. Closer to home, shellfish

With Chapter 195 of the Acts of 1870, Massachusetts allowed towns to regulate shellfishing. In 1909, licenses to culture and harvest clams were issued by the Selectmen of Kingston, and the Bay floor was divided among the lucky license holders. The first license was issued to Fred Bailey for “one-half acre more or less.” The division of Gray’s Flats can be seen on the blueprint above.

Clam grant to Fred Bailey, 1909
Clam grant to Fred Bailey, 1909

During the 1920s, outbreaks of typhoid fever were traced back to local shellfish and many beds were closed. Some Kingston clam flats have remained closed since that time, while other areas were harvested into the 1970s. As the towns around Kingston, Duxbury and Plymouth Bays grew, pollutants increasingly affected the ecosystem, and shellfishing became hazardous. By 2002, however, efforts to decrease storm drain runoff and regulate septic systems had lowered pollution levels enough to allow Kingston Bay to be seeded with seven tons of cherrystones, quahogs, little necks and soft shell clams. In 2009, Kingston were again issued shellfish licenses, almost 100 years to the day after the original licenses were granted. Aquaculture is a new, and newly revived, industry in Kingston and surrounding towns.

Now and then, then and now

All the recent snow reminded me of this photograph taken from Green Street.  It dates after 1883, because the Soldier’s Monument is there, but before 1928, when the trolley stopped running.

Training Green and First Parish Church in the snow, no date
Training Green and First Parish Church in the snow, no date

Once I found this one, I walked a little ways down Green Street to see if the view was the same.

Training Green and First Parish Church in the snow, 2010
Training Green and First Parish Church in the snow, 2010

Not exactly.

A whale of a tale

Whale beached at Ah-de-nah, October 20, 1948. By Ethel Packard.
Whale beached at Ah-de-nah, October 20, 1948. By Ethel Packard.

In the 1948 Annual Report of the Town of Kingston, the Board of Health reported:

On October 20th, 1948, a fin-back whale came ashore north of the town pier [today’s town landing] at the foot of River Street. Measuring 42 ft. in length and weighing approximately 30 tons, this would ordinarily have been a human interest story, but it developed into a Board of Health problem when this Board was forced to dispose of the mammal.  Our Highway Department with the assistance of power machinery, loaded the whale on a heavy-duty platform trailer and carried it to the Town Dump where it was suitably buried.

After the dump closed a few years later, the Kingston Drive-In was built on the site.  Today this location is occupied by Summerhill Plaza, so yes, indeed, there is a whale buried under the Stop-n-Shop!

Whale beached at Ah-de-nah, October 20, 1948. By Ethel Packard.
Whale beached at Ah-de-nah, October 20, 1948. By Ethel Packard.

Nick’s Rock

Published in 1899 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Topographical Survey Commission, The Atlas of the Boundaries of the Town of Kingston describes the 18 corners marking the town limits and the seven “triangulation stations” used to locate the corners. The Atlas includes the statutes that formally defined the boundaries, textual descriptions, a scale map of the town along with details of each corner, two tables of geographical data and nicely captioned photographs.

The witness stone at corner 17, near Kingston Bay, 1899
The witness stone at corner 17, near Kingston Bay, 1899

Among the readily identifiable landmarks, such as Monk’s Hill, the Kingston Unitarian Church and the Standish Monument, is one known to many but now gone: Nick’s Rock.

In the 1920’s Emily Drew wrote

Nick’s Rock on the line between the towns of Plymouth and Kingston, not far from Monk’s Hill is one of three rocks in Kingston which “testify” to the visits of the Devil as imprints of his feet and hooves prove “conclusively” that such visits were really made. The other two rocks are both called Devil’s Rock. One lies near Bay Farm and the other in the brick-kiln pasture near C. Drew and Company on Stony Brook.

Nick’s Rock was also used as a boundary marker for the town line between Plymouth and Kingston. Originally the rock marked the way for Nick’s Rock Road, which was the main road from the early Plymouth settlement. The road branched at the rock with one direction heading towards Plympton and the other towards the Flaxing Place at Smelt Pond.

Nick's Rock, 1899
Nick’s Rock, 1899

The 1899 Atlas locate Nicks’ Rock on the line between corners 17 and 18, at latitude 41 57 35.95 and longitude 70 42 59.64,  and describes the landmark as

situated in the boundary line between Kingston and Plymouth, in a thick growth of low scrub oaks, with scattering yellow pines, about 75 feet west of a wood-road.  It is a well know point being marked by a rock about 10 feet high and measuring 12 x 15 feet on the top, which slopes to the southwest.  A good view is obtained for miles to the south and west.

The witness stone at corner 18, 1899
The witness stone at corner 18, 1899

Nick’s Rock is gone now, though a marker in the median strip of the new Route 44 just west of the Cherry Street overpass commemorates this bygone stone.